KLM, where the K is for Karing

July 29, 2018 § Leave a comment

img-5443

When Arnold Neuhaus was a small lad growing up in Amsterdam, he entered a contest sponsored by KLM, and won. The prize was a flight over Amsterdam, but he wasn’t able to collect because of his sister’s illness. Eighty three years later, with the help of his seven-year-old great-grandson, KLM delivered with a surprise for “Grandpa Nol’s” ninetieth birthday.

How’s that for a caring company?

Each year, AirHelp rates airlines by looking at their on-time performance, quality of service, and claim processing. I’m going to call that a “care” index (work with me here). Back in 2016, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines came in second. Since then, though, they’ve seen a bit of a dip in their ranking. Last year they came in at 11, and this year, it’s 11 again.

But KLM cares about caring, and maybe they’ll soon regain their number-2 spot. (Good look trying to be number 1. Qatar Airways seems to have a lock on that.) Take, for instance, their special-assistance program. It’s called KLM CARES.

And this summer, they’re introducing Care-E, a luggage-carrying robot that can scan your boarding pass and take you where you need to be, even if the gate changes. KLM tells CNN Travel that Care-E is currently in testing, with plans to debut it in New York’s JFK airport and San Francisco International later this year.

Care-E looks like another step toward airport robot domination, and it’s an upgrade of KLM’s Spencer, who, alas, couldn’t carry your bags.

Last year, the airline introduced the KLM Care Tag, a smart luggage tag that uses GPS and a speaker to provide helpful “tips and tricks” as you travel around Amsterdam. It’s another technology that’s in beta mode, as it was available only during September of 2017.

The Care Tag. Yeah, it’s kind of like having a stewardess riding on the back of your bike or on top of your roller bag. Of course, that’s not going to happen (though the images are kind of seared into my brain). But don’t be surprised if a member of the KLM cabin crew sneaks up behind you on the street to zip up your backpack or adjust your child’s shoulder strap. “It’s not the blue uniform that make us stand out,” they say, “It’s because we care.”

And if you still don’t believe me about KLM’s karing kulture, here’s a video in honor of Mother’s Day, for those who live far away from Mom. It’s actually my favorite of this whole bunch.

By the way (#1), do you know what KLM actually stands for? It’s Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij, which translates to Royal Aviation Company.

By the way (#2), in case you’ve never heard of AirHelp before . . . besides rating airlines (and airports), they want to help you get compensation for any flight delays, cancellations, or overbookings that have affected you in the last three years. Just let them know the details, then “sit back and relax while [they] jump into action.”

(Lilit Marcus, “KLM’s New Airport Robot Care-E Will Guide You to the Gate,” CCN Travel, July 11, 2018;

[photo from KLM, used with permission]

Advertisements

Flying First Class minus That Pesky Flying Thing

July 8, 2018 § 4 Comments

2573622523_c4cb25fdd4_z

If first-class flying is beyond the reach of your bank account, Tokyo has a solution. All you need to do is contact First Airlines and book a virtual flight to Paris, Rome, New York, or Hawaii. Your trip will include authentic first-class seats from the Airbus 310 and 340; service provided by airline crew members in training who will lead you through announcements, demonstrations, and in-flight sales; engine sounds; a four-course chef-prepared meal; and a tour of your destination using a VR headset. According to CNN Travel, the cost is around $56 for a 2-hour first-class “flight.”

Real intercontinental travel usually lasts more than a couple of hours, though, so you’ll want to complete your adventure at Tokyo’s First Cabin Tsukiji. The deluxe pod hotel features small (tiny?) rooms fashioned after “premium,” “first,” and “business” class airline amenities. There’s also a “premium economy class cabin,” where the pods are stacked two high. From what I can tell, costs are about $40 plus.

A more pricey option would be to make a reservation for Air Hollywood’s Pan Am Experience in Los Angeles. It’s a five-course meal served in an “exact replica” of a Pan Am Boeing 747. A pair of tickets run from $475 to $875, but good luck making that purchase, as July’s only offering is already sold out.

Why Not DIY?

Alright, I know what you’re thinking—We don’t live in Japan or LA! (unless, of course, you actually do live in Japan or LA). Well, I’m here to help. Back in 2013, I wrote a post that will set you up with some in-flight snacks, in-flight magazines, and an in-flight soundtrack. But that was pretty bare-bones. Now it’s time for an upgrade.

To create your own first-class-cabin experience, first, you’ll want to head over to ebay to purchase some used airline seats, just waiting to be bolted to your living-room floor. Or, for a bigger selection, and a bigger price tag, visit SkyArt for aircraft seats, fuselage panels, and emergency-exit doors. And if you’d like some airline trolleys (the kind that deliver your meals inflight) drop by SkyCart, where prices start at $1,500.

Next, you’ll need some in-flight blankets. According to Travel + Leisure, “Airlines Are Sick of First Class Passengers Stealing Blankets,” so don’t be doing that. Instead, visit the Westin Store online to purchase their $37 “Heavenly In-Flight Blanket,” created exclusively for Delta. For a couple of dollars more, go to the United Shop and get a Saks Fifth Avenue lap throw, used in United’s Polaris business class. United also sells duvets, amenity kits, and soap bearing their custom “United Landing scent.” For cheaper fare, Made in China offers coach-style airline blankets—for the rest of us. They’re as low as $1.30 apiece, but you’ll need to gather up a lot of friends, since you’ll need to buy at least 1,000. The same kind of bulk pricing can be found for eye masks and disposable slippers at EverythingBranded, and for amenity kits at Global Sources.

Let’s see, what are we still missing? Oh yes, in-flight meals to stock your trolleys. I thought I’d found the answer when I heard about Air Food One, where you can subscribe to a service that delivers to your door business-class-style food for about $12 meal. The menu comes from LSG Sky Chefs, who provide food for Lufthansa Airlines. I thought I’d found the answer, but, alas, no. Air Food One was only available in Germany and it’s no longer delivering meals. Ditto for Air New Zeland’s pop-up restaurant: only in London and only last year. So when it comes to food, you’ll just have to pop a frozen meal into the microwave. Or . . . you could pretend your flight is headed to outer space and treat yourself to some freeze-dried ice cream and fruit from Astronaut Foods.

So that about wraps it up, except for the buying, gathering, and assembling. If you’d like to skip all that, there is an alternative. But you’ll have to move to Austin (unless, of course, you already live in Austin), where you can purchase a home, built by a pilot, with its own in-flight media room. The walls and overhead bins are from a Boeing Qantas 767, and the seats come from a Delta L-1011 first-class cabin. The windows even have video monitors simulating flight scenes. Current asking price for the property is $2,689,600.

Oh yeah, one more thing. Regardless of how you set up your  first-class cabin, you’ll need some kind of curtain to draw a line between you and the rest of the world in coach. Might I suggest this or maybe even this?

(Francesca Street, “Fly from Tokyo to Paris without Leaving the Ground,” CNN Travel, February 20, 2018; Audrey Ference, “Austin Home Features Airplane Cabin-Themed Media Room Made from Real Airplane Parts,” realtor.com, April 11, 2018)

[photo: “Lufthansa First Class-Cabin,” by TravelingOtter, used under a Creative Commons license]

Air China Back-Back-Backtracks from Inflight Article on London

September 9, 2016 § Leave a comment

15233755671_71a0b084a9_z

The Interwebs have been in an uproar the last few days over an article in Air China’s inflight magazine Wings of China. As reported by journalist Haze Fan for CNBC, the latest issue of the magazine touts London as a top destination but includes the following “safety” advice in a section called “Tips from Air China”:

London is generally a safe place to travel, however precautions are needed when entering areas mainly populated by Indians, Pakistanis and black people. We advise tourists not to go out alone at night, and females always to be accompanied by another person when travelling.

Fan notes that the capital city is currently being led by a mayor, Sadiq Khan, who was born in London to Pakistani parents.

After Fan’s reporting, Air China North America issued the following apology via Twitter:

We at Air China Limited do not condone discrimination in any shape or form. We regret and apologize for the offensive language. . . .

But Air China was not done reversing its engines. The company also pulled the magazine from their planes and even deleted the above Tweet. Wings of China is now offline, as well.

So . . . I can’t send you to the Wings of China to read the article yourself, but I will remind you that if you’d like to see some other airline mags from around the world, go to my list of over 100 links at “Inflight Magazines: My Virtual Seat-Back Pocket Runneth Over.” Maybe you’ll be the one to scoop the next big piece of travel news.

(Haze Fan, “Air China Magazine Warns London Visitors to Avoid Ethnic Minority Areas,” CNBC, Sept. 7, 2016; Haze Fan, “Air China’s Magazine Says Media, Readers Misinterpreted London Travel Advice,” CNBC, Sept. 8, 2016)

[photo: “B-5178 | Air China | Boeing 737-86N | Grey Peony Livery | PEK,” by Byeangel, used under a Creative Commons license]

Airportisms: New Words for Your Travel Lexicon

February 23, 2016 § 8 Comments

20068868814_3ee691764e_z 

Following up on my Modest List of Invented Expatisms, here are nine new terms to help you describe your traveling experiences. So the next time you’re in an airport, remember

Do not leave your bags unattended.
Do not stand on the toilet seats.
And do not let your words fail you.

Here for your vocabulary building . . . airportisms.

duffling
Upon hearing that your checked bag is three pounds overweight, you feign frantic action by grabbing zippers, patting your pockets, turning in circles, and saying things such as “I could . . . ,” “Well, I . . . ,” and “What can . . . ,” hoping that the ticket agent will take pity on you and say it’s OK. Be careful that your duffling isn’t too aggressive or the agent will actually let you follow through on solving the problem.

terminal fowliage
Birds that have somehow gotten into an airport and fly around amongst the rafters and indoor trees. Birds stuck inside a place where people come to fly. Sense the irony?

flaggle
A flaggle of tourists is a group of middling to senior travelers, led by a tour guide with a flag and bullhorn. The flag is akin to the kind I my friends used to bolt onto our banana-seat bikes when we were kids. Oh, if only we’d had megaphones, too. You can tell that the flaggle is on the return leg of their trip when you see them bringing home food and souvenirs packed in large, branded gift bags or boxes with tied-on handles.

making a this-line’s-not-for-you-turn
After standing patiently in a line for fifteen minutes and realizing that it doesn’t lead where you need to go, you nonchalantly walk away—as if standing in lines is simply your hobby and you’re now looking for another place to queue up for more pleasant amusement. (Aren’t you glad you came early?)

shuftle
The standing-room-only shuttle bus at some airports that shuffles passengers on the tarmac from plane to airport terminal (or vice versa). This word can also be used as a verb.

Sadow-Plath effect
Happens in the moment when you accidentally kick a pulled carry-on with your heel and it flips onto one wheel and mo.men.tar.i.ly balances before flipping completely over or wobbling back to both wheels. This brief pause at the top of the carry-on’s arc is actually a tiny breach in the space-time continuum, caused by the rapid upturn of the luggage in combination with the forward motion. The effect is named after Bernard D. Sadow, inventor of the wheeled suitcase, and Bob Plath, creator of the rollaboard.

glizing
Glizing is the act of experiencing the wonderfully smooth exponential forward motion as you stride confidently on a moving walkway. This only happens when you’re not in a hurry, in part because, as studies show, the walkways do little to speed you up, and often slow you down.

BlackNSquare
When you try to describe your piece of luggage at the lost-luggage counter, all you can remember is that it’s part of the BlackNSquare line made by the Yuno company. Question: “What Kind of luggage do you have?” Answer: “Yuno, BlackNSquare.” Yuno also makes the upscale models BlackNSquare with handle and BlackNSquare with wheels.

preseating
To sit down, with plenty of time before boarding, able to relax because your bags are checked, you’re definitely at the right gate, and a quick look shows that your passport is right where it’s supposed to be. You take a deep breath and contemplate the hopeful possibilities of your trip. You can charge your phone, read, or people watch. You’re free to walk about and might grab a cup of coffee, browse the bestsellers in the bookstore, or window shop expensive luggage and watches . . . and on the way, you can go glizing.

[photo: “Opportunities | Airport Moment,” by John Ragai, used under a Creative Commons license]

Give the Gift of Flight (and I’m not talking about those new Air Jordans)

November 15, 2014 § Leave a comment

193980184_35f2b9d8a0_zHere’s another way to get rid of those pesky frequent-flyer miles. Actually, it’s not the miles that are pesky, it’s those notices that your miles are going to expire due to inactivity that get irritating.

Last year, I wrote about trading a few hundred miles for magazine subscriptions. But maybe you don’t need another Golf Digest laying around your house. Maybe you want to live out your belief that it’s better to give than to receive.

Most airlines allow you to give your miles to selected charities, and it’s even easier than buying magazines. In fact, it probably takes more clicks to find the donation site than to make the donation.

I’ve put together a list of airline donation sites to help the cause. I give credit to the folks at MileDonation.com for giving me a head start on finding some of the links. More about MileDonation below.

Some of the other useful links at MileDonation.com are instructions on how a charity can solicit mile donations for itself, a form for joining their list of people seeking donated miles, and the list of published requests that others can give to.

You can also contact your favorite non-profit directly to see if they can accept miles into a matching frequent-flyer account (a fee will apply).

Of course, you don’t have to give your miles away. There’s always Cigar Aficionado.

[photo: “Airbus A319 C-GJWF,” by Doug, used under a Creative Commons license]

Help for Infrequent Fliers with Frequent-Flyer Miles

March 22, 2013 § 4 Comments

4068907085_388379498d_nDON’T LET YOUR MILES EXPIRE!

Chances are if you have a frequent-flyer account, you’ve probably seen that message, or something like it, in your email inbox.

Few things last forever, including airline miles, but keeping your miles available may not be as difficult as you think. There are a lot of ways to keep your account active, and though I’m not an expert on all the tricks of the trade, here are some things I’ve learned about one option: MagsforMiles:

  1. MagsforMiles (or Magazines for Miles) offers one of the cheapest ways to create account activity, at least for these airlines: Alaska, American, Delta, Frontier, Hawaiian, Spirit, United, and US Airways. For as few as 500 miles, you can get a year’s subscription to a wide variety of magazines.
  2. While some think that you need to clean out all your miles before they expire, you simply have to  show some kind of activity—just spend or add as few miles as possible. That means one subscription with MagsforMiles will do.
  3. According to MagsforMiles FAQ page, you should wait 6-12 weeks for the first issue of your subscription to be delivered. Save the reply email you get showing that your order is being processed so you’ll know the order date and magazine name in case you need to follow up later.
  4. Don’t wait until the last minute. The required amount of miles will be taken out of your account within 2-4 weeks, and it could possibly take up to 6 weeks. This is important to remember, as you’ll not be able to redeem your miles on the last day of the deadline. I found this out when I got a postcard in the mail saying that MagsforMiles couldn’t fulfill my order because there were insufficient miles in my account. That was because after the deadline passed, the airline zeroed my account before MagsforMiles could take out the miles they needed.
  5. MagsforMiles has a customer service page, but when I called their number, all I got was an automated help line. This didn’t help me a lot, since the magazine subscription I was checking on wasn’t in the system, since it hadn’t been fulfilled.
  6. If, like me, you do your best and your miles get cancelled anyway, all is not lost. Call the airline and explain your situation. In my case, they called MagsforMiles (I assume they talked to a real person) and then gave me back all my miles as a one-time courtesy. I’m not sure how far you could go with that, but even if you miss the deadline with no really good excuse, it would be worth the call to see if the same policy would apply.

After all’s said and done, with MagsforMiles you’ll save your miles and you’ll get some pretty good magazines. Some, like Afar, Coastal Living, and Condé Nast Traveler can even make you feel as if you’re traveling from the comfort of your own easy chair. (OK. I know. It’s not the same, but it’s better than nothing.)

[photo: “The Chase,” by Luis Argerich, used under a Creative Commons license]

 

Inflight Magazines: My Virtual Seat-Back Pocket Runneth Over

June 6, 2012 § 2 Comments

Nothing beats a good inflight magazine. It’s kind of hard for me to read a book on a flight, maybe because I’m too easily distracted, and I fall asleep too easily. But magazines . . . that’s different. I love the photos of exotic foods, the stories about eccentric locales, the ads for ridiculously expensive watches. Some time ago, I went on the internet to see if any international airlines offered free subscriptions for their magazines. I didn’t find any, but I did discover that several offer them online. Then, when I  searched some more, those several turned into a whole lot. So I put together this list (English-language only) and tracked down the links. I’d love to have them all spread out on my coffee table, but since that’s not going to happen, this is the next-best thing. (And in case you think your seat-back pocket is still missing something, I know what it is. What inflight library would be complete without a copy of SkyMall?)

(Updated, September 2018)

Any additions? Please let me know.

[photo: “In-Flight Magazine and Sky Time,” by Hideyuki KAMON, used under a Creative Commons license]

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing entries tagged with airlines at Clearing Customs.

%d bloggers like this: